January 18th, 2012 by Zachary Shahan
You have to love it when a politician does what he’s promised to do, especially when that thing is for the public good. Obama has done that today by going ahead and rejecting the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The pipeline, at best, would have created a few thousand jobs, and, at worst, would have cost the U.S. jobs. The proposed pipeline was also, more importantly, a huge climate and environmental train wreck waiting to happen.
Keystone XL Pipeline & Activism Background
We’ve written about the Keystone XL more times than I’d like to count, but for anyone just tuning in, here’s a little history:
The pipeline, despite being a $7-billion project, only had one junior-level staffer from the State Department overlooking it for years! The consultant hired to do most of the review work would have befitted financially from the project going through. Yes, this was occurring during the Obama administration as well.
Aside from the tremendous climate and environmental damage the pipeline was projected to cause (it’s really hard to overemphasize how much that would be), the pipeline really wouldn’t offer the U.S. anything.
“Here in the United States, oil companies trumpet false job claims and promise a secure supply of oil,” Frances Beinecke of NRDC notes. “But in the Canadian press, oil companies talk freely about using the pipeline to export oil to Asian markets and charge more money for the oil they do sell in the U.S.”
A Cornell study, the only comprehensive independent study on the project, found that, in the long run, the project might actually cost the U.S. jobs! In sworn testimony, representatives from TransCanada, the company that would develop the pipeline, said the project would only create “hundreds” of permanent jobs. The U.S. State Department had that number at 20.
Despite all this, the pipeline was considered a shoe-in decision up until last summer, when over a thousand activists protested outside of the White House and took turns submitting to arrest for weeks. Well, actually, even after that, those “in the know” considered it a done deal.
Later in the year, however, over 10,000 citizens circled the White House, literally, to oppose the project.
And Obama, not too long after that, finally made a key decision, to postpone a decision on the project until a better environmental review was conducted.
Obama’s Previous Keystone XL Decisions & His Decision Today
Obama was obviously faced with a huge choice regarding this pipeline. Of course, it was an obvious decision for those of us not in, owned by, or fooled by the oil industry, but it was a complicated one politically.
Just a couple months ago, when he made the huge decision to postpone the pipeline, many of us were both thrilled and cautious. Why? The decision was postponed due to inadequate environmental review (horrid environmental review, in fact). But the deadline for making a decision on the pipeline was pushed until after the next presidential election (after the environmental review could be completed). Who knows who will be in office then, or what would happen?
On the other hand, delaying it that long, many said, would kill the project.
Sure enough, when given a slight wind of opportunity, Republicans in congress forced a requirement into a payroll tax cut bill to make a final decision on the pipeline (approve it or not) within a couple months! Obama, clear that an environmental review could not be conducted in such a short time, warned that if they forced that rider through, he would be forced to reject the pipeline outright. And that’s what he’s done today.
Obama’s full statement today:
Earlier today, I received the Secretary of State’s recommendation on the pending application for the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. As the State Department made clear last month, the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment. As a result, the Secretary of State has recommended that the application be denied. And after reviewing the State Department’s report, I agree.
This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people. I’m disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my Administration’s commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil. Under my Administration, domestic oil and natural gas production is up, while imports of foreign oil are down. In the months ahead, we will continue to look for new ways to partner with the oil and gas industry to increase our energy security –including the potential development of an oil pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico – even as we set higher efficiency standards for cars and trucks and invest in alternatives like biofuels and natural gas. And we will do so in a way that benefits American workers and businesses without risking the health and safety of the American people and the environment.
Of course, I’m not a big fan of increasing oil production anywhere, but Obama is obviously not the most liberal president in the world. That said, we can certainly be happy with his decision today.
Going back to our announcement in November when Obama made the first key decision, we won! Thank Obama today by sending him an email via the Rainforest Action Network!
Top Photo Credit: Shadia Fayne | Obama photo via jurvetson on flickr
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